It was Jerry Fleisher’s own family that started him down the road to helping homeless families.
When his son Jeffrey was in high school, he got his parents involved in a coat drive for the homeless of New York City, and enlisted the family to serve Thanksgiving dinner at a shelter in Paterson.
And Jerry’s wife Anne was coordinator at their synagogue (Temple Sinai in Tenafly) for the Interreligious Fellowship for the Homeless, the organizational precursor of Family Promise of Bergen County.
With her, he volunteered at the IRF’s shelter in Englewood, which preceded Family Promise’s network of revolving congregational hosts for homeless families.
Today, Jerry is secretary of the board of Family Promise of Bergen County, and says he’s grateful to his family for helping him discover what he calls “such an important mission.’’
He’s been at it for more than a quarter century. With Family Promise, he’s helped stage the annual bike (and now hike) fundraiser. Eight years ago, he joined the board.
He says its important work: “It’s bad enough that we have so-called ‘street people,’ but it’s even worse that a family with a working parent could become homeless because of a single emergency.’’
He’s seen the organization’s focus change over the years, from emergency response to something more lasting: “It’s not just temporary housing, it’s sustainability — helping with mentors, financial advice, grants for education.’’
In the future, he says, “I’d also like to see us be able to provide more people with transitional housing so they won’t have to move every week. It’s hard on them.’’
Jerry was born in Boston, spent his teens in Albany and moved to Bergen County after he and Anne married in 1962. He’s a graduate of Union College and the Albany Law School, and after leaving legal practice started a research consultancy. He’s also an adjunct professor of business law at Dominican College and Rockland Community College.
He remains thankful to his family for helping him find his mission. “I’m grateful, because in our area, if you say ‘the homeless,’ most people think you’re only talking about a few people.’’